The interior is dark, illuminated starkly with slashes of red. Peering into the depths of Murasaki Teppanyaki, the silence is deafening, as diners perch restlessly on their seats, waiting to swoop on the tender morsels being prepared. The scene is surreal, there is no ringing of cutlery or even the hollow chime of glasses placed haphazardly on glossy black bench-tops. I search for the blustery baritone or tremulous treble of those over indulging on aperitifs and instead hear only muted whispers.
The suspense is eating me slowly, starting from my feet and moving slowly inch-by-inch until it has digested my entire form. This is not the first time I have ventured into a teppanyaki restaurant, but the faint memory of an earlier experience evokes a sense of elation that is difficult to quell.
As a softly spoken Japanese waitress gestures in supplication for us to follow her toward the "teppan" (iron plate) my eyes gradually focus, drawing in an apparition, the chef approaching out of the darkness. He is dressed in black, with a crimson toque (traditional chef's hat) balancing imperiously on his ebony crown. His eyes are piercing and one hand is clasped tenderly around a slender metal skillet, like grasping the palm of a lover.
The chef begins preparation of our meals. I had chosen a banquet, which combined chicken, seafood and eye fillet sliced finely with a side serving of vegetables, salad and miso soup. Tenderly he places the vegetables on the grill and the performance begins. Salt-shaker in one hand, skillet in the other, he seasons the vegetables tossing his tools into the air with a dexterity gleaned from years of practice.
It is an opera of food, the kaleidoscope of meat, chicken and prawns playing minor roles, the main act undoubtedly the skilful technique of the chef, mesmerising his audience with the showmanship of a snake charmer. Flicking a steel bowl with the skillet, he delicately spreads the contents onto the teppan, then begins once again the ritualistic dance, a seduction of food and cutlery, the two merging at the precise time for succulent perfection.
Suddenly in a climactic display the chef flings the shiny metal salt-shaker into the air and appearing in slow motion, it comes to rest softly on the top of his toque. I gasp in appreciation, it was an astonishing display, highlighting a proficiency that would have taken years to master.
The chef then turns toward a member of our party, out celebrating her birthday. Slicing an omelette delicately on the teppan, he aims a flurry of the fine slivers in her direction, to her initial shock and our profound amusement. Then picking up a plastic sauce bottle filled with salt, he flawlessly writes a birthday message upside down with its contents.
My meal was cooked to precision and lightly seasoned, so that the natural clean flavours of the ingredients shone through. There are numerous meal choices on offer, with Murasaki specialising in the traditional teppan and teriyaki dishes. I suggest selecting a banquet, if you are dining with guests, as this allows you to sample a varied selection of Japanese cuisine.
Prices start from around $25 for a main and the banquets range between $30-$40. Murasaki is open seven days a week for indoor and al fresco dining, offering warm, friendly service and a masterfully executed culinary performance that I promise will be breathtaking.